Widening the net of assisted suicide to vulnerable peopleBMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4967 (Published 05 August 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4967
- Sameer Mallick, Medical Research Council clinical research training fellow in otolaryngology1
Although the idea of performing assisted death without the person’s consent may seem absurd, this has occasionally occurred in Belgium and the Netherlands.1 2 Furthermore, Belgium has recently passed a law legalising euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit.3 This is precisely the slippery slope that those against assisted suicide worry about. Although The BMJ’s editors naively play this down in their support for the Assisted Dying Bill,4 the experience of our European neighbours suggests that widening the net of assisted suicide to vulnerable people at some point in the future already has a precedent.
Furthermore, there are many examples of a statute being introduced for a particular purpose, only for it to be manipulated and misused in later years. Take the Terrorism Act 2000, which was also introduced by Lord Falconer. When David Miranda was detained in Britain under Schedule 7 of the act, Falconer himself stated: “I am very clear that this does not apply, either on its terms or in its spirit, to Mr Miranda.”5 Whereas this misapplication of anti-terror legislation resulted in a brief inconvenience to an individual, the misapplication of the assisted suicide bill would have far more serious consequences—the unnecessary loss of human life.
Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4967
Competing interests: I have co-authored a report entitled Legalising Assisted Suicide: An Analysis, which was prepared for the think tank Averroes.
Full response at: www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4349/rr/760255.
Log in using your username and password
Log in through your institution
Sign up for a free trial